Live in an apartment block and don’t have a garden? Thinking outside (or above!) the box could be the solution to creating a beautiful green sanctuary.
With high rise living increasing in Australia, the traditional front lawn and garden aren’t as common – so we asked Matt Leacy from Landart Landscapes to share his tips for creating a low-cost and sustainable garden above street level.
“If your inner city house doesn’t have space for a backyard garden, think vertical and consider creating a rooftop garden,” Leacy says. “Before you start, you must make sure that your rooftop is in top condition to avoid any future damages and hazards. Once you get the green light that the structure of the roof is suitable, start planning the style of garden you would like.”
Turn unused spaces into a rooftop sensation with Matt’s tips – a garden haven close to heaven…
1. Assess the condition of your rooftop membrane
The construction of your roof needs to be the first thing you consider for safety reasons. Is the waterproof membrane sealed, intact and fully protected? Is your existing membrane compatible with chemicals and organic compounds such as fertilisers, composts and leachate from plants? Do you have a drain in place so water drains out easily? Are you aware of the weight your structure is able to bear? If you have answered ‘yes’ to all the above, then turn a dull unused space into a lush and beautiful place.
If you have answered no, don’t worry – just about every problem has a solution! Consult your local council or engineer for construction and garden approvals before you commence any large scale garden installation.
2. Use Astroturf
For an easy green roof terrace surface install a layer of AstroTurf for an everyday ready-to-play area. Although initial costs may seem high, it is a low maintenance option for those who may not have the time or energy to water and cut their own grass on a regularly basis.
Sports grass, commonly known as synthetic or artificial, drains well, saves water, and also has a long life expectancy – saving time and money. Especially for a dark, south-facing balcony where grass isn’t an option.
There’s also the benefit of letting your kids and pets run around the new play area without needing to worry about them coming back into the house covered in mud if it’s been raining!
3. Find suitable plants
Roofs are constantly exposed to the Aussie sun and crisp wind so choose plants that can adapt to your climate and location. Succulents, grasses and coastal species are highly recommended because they can cope with shallow soil, heat and dry conditions.
Aloe x spinosissima, also known as the Spider Aloe, is a rosette of in-rolled succulent leaves, sprouting a spike of tubular orange-red flowers to add a touch of colour in the garden.
Senecio mandraliscae, or ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’ are another great option – they form long silvery-blue cylindrical leaves that grow 30cm tall and blossom yellow daisy-like flowers in the summer.
Select dwarf-like plants which are securely tied down so your neighbours won’t be finding broken pots in front of their doorsteps after a storm or high winds.
4. Grow flavoursome herbs
Your kitchen will soon be piping out homey, aromatic dishes if a decorative variety of fragrant herbs are planted on your rooftop. Herb gardens can provide a beautifully scented garden and are ideal for growing in planter boxes – perfect for giving a rooftop garden a stylish edge!
Another benefit of herbs is that they are light-weight plants, and mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives and other classic favourites are easy to grow.
5. Plant an organic veggie patch
Grow a range of organic juicy vegetables for the family on a green roof that absorbs sunlight and water – a win-win solution for both the produce and building!
Use containers to allow drainage so that plant roots won’t burrow into the roof membrane. A little TLC will be required it’s important to grow vegetables that are in season. For a healthy veggie patch all year round, consider iceberg lettuce, snow peas, kale, spinach, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.
Start eating clean with your home-grown, chemical-free, pest-free, additive-free fruits and vegetables!
Do you have a rooftop garden? What plants have you used there? Let us know!